Voting 101 Event for Students: "Voting is Your Voice"

Humanities Center Student Board member and USD sophomore Sienna Todd, far right, explains a point during Monday's Voting 101 event in the Humanities Center.Humanities Center Student Board member and USD sophomore Sienna Todd, far right, explains a point during Monday's Voting 101 event in the Humanities Center.

Sixteen. Sweet 16? Not exactly. The last time a national midterm election was held, in 2014, the voter turnout among University of San Diego students was a mere 16 percent. The USD student enrollment at the time was 8,082 and there were 4,356 students registered to vote, yet only 1,196 who actually voted, according to results from the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement.

Furthermore, the way in which USD students voted in the 2014 midterm elections was mainly by mail (731). In-person, election day, netted 337 voters. Only 39 did early voting, 61 did it by absentee ballot and there were 28 voters who fell into the category of unknown.

On Monday afternoon in the Humanities Center, Sienna Todd was one of five students from the Humanities Center Student Board to conduct a “Voting 101: A Pragmatic Guide for Students,” event. It was done to explain to students the how, where and why about registering to vote and, of course, the hope that students will follow through and actually vote.

Todd, a sophomore international relations and visual arts double major who cares greatly about growing the voter turnout numbers, presented most of the key statistical information. Her dedication came through in her words, statistics and stating that she works on behalf of USD Votes.

Statistically speaking, the 16 percent at USD in 2014 was near the national average. Still though, when asked what would be an acceptable percentage number to see when the Nov. 6 midterm election occurs in 2018, one student’s hope was “at least 20 percent.”

Imagine, of course, how much of a turnout there could be if registered voting students who live on the USD campus and have the convenience of a polling place at the Degheri Alumni Center, which there is, showed up between the 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. timeframe? That 20 percent figure could go higher.

One positive on Monday was that a majority of the audience members raised their hand when asked if they were registered to vote. Most were from California, but there were also out-of-state voters, including Wisconsin and Alaska.

This will only be Todd’s second time voting. She first voted in California’s June primary — opting to do so in her native Walnut Creek in Northern California — and will do so again on the Nov. 6 midterm election day.

Only 19 years of age, Todd understands and cherishes the opportunity to make her voice heard. She relayed her passion for this civic activity by sharing that at midnight on her 18th birthday, she celebrated by going online and registering to vote. She was active in high school, too, to encourage others to get involved. Through USD Votes, she’s been one of several students working to get other students registered through tabling in front of the Hahn University Center, during September’s Alcala Bazaar and other events hosted and sponsored by USD Votes this fall.

But there are challenges, of course. A low voter turnout continues to be a major problem. One student’s presentation specifically focused on research as to why don’t people vote.

Looking at it from a national perspective and zeroing in on young people and various sources to gain the information, some of the reasons include: A lack of political efficacy, students feeling their one vote doesn’t matter; research saying that schools don’t teach enough politics classes; Many students just don’t have any political knowledge; Young people have a lack of trust in the government; and one report, which took into account the current political landscape by way of a poll by the 33rd Public Opinion Project said that President Donald Trump’s approval rating among millennials was at 32 percent and 41 percent of them say he deserves an F grade for his performance so far.

While information above provides openings for deeper discussion and varying viewpoints, the important collective takeaway from the student speakers Monday was to make sure everyone understands that “voting is your voice.” 

Websites and other resources provided during the talk included, KPBS Voters’ Edge;; California Polling Place Locator; and check out the USD Votes website, which has a variety of information and additional website links.

The University of San Diego and its Department of Political Science and International Relations will host an Election Night gathering on Nov. 6 from 5-10 p.m. at Frank's Lounge. Join political science professors and fellow students to watch live election returns. Free pizza will be available.

— Ryan T. Blystone


USD News Center
(619) 260-4681